But this latest success is merely a replication of what’s worked for years in other parts of Sanctuary Cap Cana, an idyllic corner of the 30,000-acre resort Cap Cana that caters to gourmands, golfers and those who simply love getting away.
Sanctuary Cap Cana doesn’t attempt to wow with wild design elements — though we have to admit that a castle in the middle of the beach escape is pretty unique — yet it wins you over with sincerity, service and some of the prettiest sand you’ll ever see.
When our Forbes Travel Guide editors last visited this blissful stretch of the Dominican Republic, Sanctuary Town was getting its first coat of paint, but there were more than enough other food- and fun-filled elements to try to ensure that the resort stood out.
It doesn’t matter if you’re staying in a Honeymoon Villa, Royalty Villa or one of the breathtaking Island Suites, you’ll assure yourself of stress-free access to the water and the daily-refilled minibar. (Reserve the Celebrate Your Love package through December 22 and you’ll also score airport transfers, breakfast in bed and a couple’s massage.)
But even with all of the options, there’s something special about the understated Monarch Villas. These units follow a path from the reception area that meanders slightly to the right, away from the bars and bike tours. In other words, things feel a bit more secluded in this direction — not that noise is ever much of an issue at the adults-only property.
The other thing you’ll love about the space is its look. Wood-paneled walls, towering ceilings, sheer white curtains and splashes of tan give the villa an effortless and airy feel — and that’s before you’ve even had a chance to slide open the door to the beach.
There’s one section of the property that feels more like 1600s Dublin than present-day Dominican Republic. Like any castle you’d imagine from medieval times, this one has walls, battlements and a general sense of sturdiness. But unlike a Game of Thrones set piece, the interior of this fortress is adorned in gorgeous suites, buzzy bars and stunning public spaces.
The one area that proves most memorable is the rooftop pool. The juxtaposition of limestone and lounge chairs has a surreal quality to it. After a few rounds of mojitos, though, you forget about a clashing of styles and, instead, embrace it for what it truly is — a sun-splashed escape from reality.
The Castle houses one of five onsite restaurants, Wok. With the shrimp tossing and egg rolling, the hibachi-style eatery isn’t all that different from the place in your own neighborhood, which in of itself is quite a declaration seeing as how you’re in the middle of the Caribbean.
The same can be said for Argentine-flavored The Steakhouse. Though reservations aren’t essential for a romantic evening here, the slow-cooked short ribs ensure that the restaurant stays active.
For a more authentic sense of place, find yourself a table at Blue Marlin. Sitting on stilts atop an aqua that Crayola has fully defined yet, the restaurant is the perfect place for a meal most any time of the day, save for the 4-to-6 p.m. window where the establishment preps for dinner. Fresh redfish and shrimp are great choices, but the seafood paella is a cast-iron skillet filled with amazing flavors of the deep.
And then there’s the aforementioned Sanctuary Town. Your nose won’t know which way to go first. If you’re in the mood for pizza, Mamma’s Forno and Pasta can have something delicious cooked up. Have a craving for Mexican? The Tacos Truck will sate it.
But you don’t even have to be starving to have a good time here. Beers of the World is the pub you didn’t know Punta Cana was missing. Sweet House is the home to tasty pastries you’ll attempt to smuggle back in your luggage.
Of course, if you have needs that go beyond the table, Sanctuary Cap Cana doesn’t disappoint there, either. Sanctuary Spa, which sits inside of the Castle, is where you’ll find more than 20,000 square feet of treatment rooms, hydrotherapy circuits and a snazzy juice bar to refill on any nutrients you may have lost during your Sweet Scrub.
The main pool is flanked by palms and people playing volleyball. You can join in at the net if you’d like, but there’s some serious lounging happening under the umbrellas and all kinds of activities (stretching class, aerobics, Zumba) occurring near the pool. We were too lazy to join visiting fitness trainer Rosalie Brown’s beach workout, but our muscles tightened a little just from looking at the group in action.
As you might have heard, the golf is great around these parts, too. (The PGA is even adding a tournament stop to the area in 2018.) Sanctuary Cap Cana guests not only have the freedom to play the lovely Punta Espada Golf Club, they also receive complimentary transportation to the nearby course and get caddies for each group.
AlSol Hotels & Resorts manages other neighboring properties, including AlSol Luxury Village, that are only a quick ride from Sanctuary. There, you’ll find more restaurants, more pools and more backdrops for your social media posts.
When you get to Luxury Village, you’re free to just hop off the shuttle and go. Simple, easy, nice and breezy — it may not be the official slogan for Cap Cana, but it surely appears to be an ethos that everyone adheres to.